Mobile apps have been a thing for a while now, and there was a phase when it important for businesses and individuals alike to have an app in the stores. Having a website is so 1999, and basic that the next important thing after having a website and a social media presence was having an app for download. You know, get your customers to download it and make the experience personal.
Then a new problem arose. That of too many apps screaming for the attention of the smartphone user, and gradually app owners realized that they aren’t reaching users as they had hoped would happen. Only a few apps were being used, the likes of Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter, Telegram and a few others. Beyond that the app really needs to really prove itself to get user attention.
But humans are not known to give up, there had to be a way to get access to users. Platforms like bots on top of existing services became the cure all. Since Facebook, and Telegram have created bot platforms for developers to build upon, this looks like a path to accessing users. Go where they are.
Three Kenyans founded a startup called Pesabot, a platform that helps businesses to develop chat-bots on Telegram and Facebook Messenger. This was in September 2016 after they had been consultants for a while, developing portals and web projects for a variety of customers including the Kenya government.
..insurance companies and banks liked the idea of bot driven customer service product but didn’t get on board due to slow process of doing new things..
The initial approach was helping customers manage their customer service for insurance companies and banking, but this space was a hard nut to crack. The founders attribute this to the rigid way things are done at corporate level like needing to have budgets, red-tape and mid to long term planning. Companies liked the idea but ended up not coming on board due to the process. After 8 months of trying to follow up corporate business, they pivoted to targeting small businesses who’s decision making process is a bit faster.
Kenyans do a lot of e-commerce on Facebook, and thus the trio thought if they built a sales management service for customers, they would be onto something. This is how they started Biasharabot, which is based off Pesabot. The founders are Felix Cheruiyot who is the CEO, Moses Korir who is the Business Development lead and Morrey Okumu who is the CTO.
Started in August 2017, Biasharabot is a service that provides a dashboard for small businesses to add their products and with the click of a few buttons, create their own bot for their business. Accessible via mobile web and desktop, Biasharabot website dashboard lets them add products, images, sizes, flavours, prices, categories and variations of their products for customers to choose from. Then the bots are deployed on Telegram and Facebook Messenger.
This process enables the small businesses manage their customer onboarding experience where the bots answer basic questions that a customer may have, guide them in selecting the product and even making an order. Customers choose from pay on delivery and pay to order via Mpesa Express, an API driven way to pay where you only need to input your PIN as pushed from the bot to user’s phone at check-out.
Businesses find it much easy to manage sales on Facebook as they mostly find themselves dealing with delivering already ordered goods as opposed to managing sales manually.
Biasharabot charges Kshs 3000 monthly subscription with a one month trial period. Currently the small businesses engaging them are food vendors, but they target to cut across various sectors as Felix says. These chatbots automate the whole process including sales without a steep and expensive process to get there. “You don’t need to answer the frequently asked questions, as long as you’ve updated the inventory well, the bot checks what’s in your inventory and updates the customer well,” says Felix.
Customers are able to get started on their own, but since the product is very young (two months), they try to work with customers, including helping them update the inventory. This process helps them learn a lot on how customers are using the service and the end goal is to improve it to the point it’s fully automated and any customer can walk in. They have also deployed monitoring tools to see where customer pain points are and also tell at what point a customer dropped off from if that happens.
Biasharabot hopes to onboard at least 1000 small businesses in the next 6 months and in the long term, work with customers in creating even better solutions to make business much better by using the data collected in improving the product. They also aim to go beyond chatbots and develop even much better solutions to enable small merchants sell better.